Comparison essay (Wuthering heights & the sorrow of young werther)
Wuthering Heights and the Sorrow of Young Werther Wuthering Heights is the only novel written by Emily Bronte but despite that, it is quite famous. It is a book about unrequited love, of love that is returned and how people may react to either situation. The Sorrow of Young Werther is part of the German literature. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has penned a story – more like an autobiographical novel – in the form of letters. The main character suffers from love not requited and ends up taking his life because of that.
Heathcliff is the protagonist in Bronte’s novel. He lives a frustrated childhood since he does not have any parents and is homeless until he is found by Mr. Earnshaw and taken to Wuthering Heights. Living with the Earnshaws, he is often made to realize how insignificant his background is compared to them and he is resentful for that. He does not like Hindley as he tyrannizes him but becomes close friends with Cathy and soon falls in love with her. But she marries her neighbor Edgar Linton much to Heathcliff’s disgust and disappointment and he turns cruel. He is driven to live just for revenge against those who did not allow him to live a happy life like Hindley, Cathy, Edgar and later their offspring. The book ends at his death.
Werthur, on the other hand, is care free, clever but arrogant, he is also artistic but has no drive to do anything about it. He goes to a village and loves to see the way the people there live, their simple family lives, and yet he is estranged from his own mother. He falls in love with Charlotte but she is already engaged to another man Albert. Werthur tries to overcome this attraction but after a few years, he realizes it is of no use, that the love has only grown deeper and he commits suicide by shooting himself.
The female who is the reason behind the way Heathcliff acts is Catherine Earnshaw, later Linton. She easily becomes friends with Heathcliff and they grow very close to each other. She is very lively as a young girl and gets into scraps but then she grows up. She turns into a ‘lady’, much to Heathcliff’s regret. She becomes aware of the social differences between her and her best friend and even though she says she loves him, she cannot marry him because of those. Instead, she gets engaged to Edgar who is more of her social standard. Throughout her life she is torn between the desires of doing what she wants i.e. be with Heathcliff or doing what she thinks she should i.e. be with Edgar. She dies some time after giving birth to her daughter.
In The Sorrow of Young Werther, Charlotte is a very selfless person. After her mother’s death, she looks after her eight younger siblings without any complaints. She is a generous girl and Werther feels instant attraction for her despite the fact that she is engaged to a young man in the village called Albert. She remains loyal though, in heart and actions, but remains friends with Werther. In the end, she begs him to go away so that her relationship with Albert survives.
Edgar Linton is Heathcliff’s enemy as he takes away the one person he loved: Catherine. He is the perfect gentleman: rich, well behaved and educated, quite the opposite of Heathcliff and it is for that reason alone that he manages to get Cathy to agree to marry him. But he is also shown as a weak character; he is afraid to fight Heathcliff and eventually dies of sickness.
Albert has an interesting personality. He lives in the same village as Charlotte and is sober and responsible, quite the opposite of Werther. When the two men meet, they get on well as they both are good conversationalists. But when Werther cannot put Charlotte away from his mind, Albert and Werther no longer remain friends.
Both the stories have the basic outline of unrequited love and what it does to people though Bronte’s novel seems to be more complex. Heathcliff attacks others because of his unhappiness and wants everyone to feel the same whereas Werther feels terrible and kills himself. Cathy professes to love Heathcliff and still marries Edgar but Charlotte is faithful and loves her husband alone. Werther is only a friend to her. Edgar and Heathcliff hate each other from day one but in the beginning, Albert and Werther actually get on well with each other. It is only because of Charlotte that a rift forms between the two.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Plain Label Books, 1953.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. The Sorrows of Young Werther. Filiquarian Publishing, LLC., 2007.